WASHINGTON - The massive storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast and morphed into a huge and problematic system, putting more than 7.3 million homes and businesses in the dark and causing at least 16 deaths.
Thousands of people across the country sought Red Cross shelters beginning Sunday and through Monday night.
The Red Cross has deployed more than 1,300 disaster workers to the region from all over the country to help those affected by the storm. As many as 160 emergency vehicles are ready to respond when it is safe to do so, and more than 230,000 ready-to-eat meals have been sent into the area.
"Sandy is a large and dangerous storm, and will affect large parts of the eastern part of the country for the next few days, said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the Red Cross. "We urge people to remain in a safe place until it passes, and to listen to instructions from local officials."
To find a Red Cross shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site , call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767.)"
People can also register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website, a secure and easy-to-use online tool that helps families connect during emergencies. To register, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.
BLOOD DRIVES CANCELED
Meanwhile, nearly 100 Red Cross blood drives have already been canceled due to the storm, and there could be more as the week goes on. This means a loss of as many as 3,200 blood and platelet products. If anyone is eligible, especially in places not affected by the storm, they are asked to please schedule a blood donation now.
"Patients will still need blood despite the weather," said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the Red Cross. "To ensure a sufficient national blood supply is available for those in need, both during and after the storm passes, it is critical that those in unaffected areas make an appointment to donate blood as soon as possible."
To schedule a blood donation or get more information about giving blood, people can visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). To give blood, someone must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds to give with parental consent.
HOW TO HELP
"This will be a large, costly relief response and the Red Cross needs help now," Shimanski said. "People can help by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief online, by text or by phone."
Financial donations help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy. To donate, people can visit www.redcross.org , call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone's local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.
RED CROSS APPS
More than 235,000 people have downloaded the free Red Cross Hurricane App Friday when Sandy began approaching, making it one of the most popular free apps. The app gives up-to-date weather alerts, information on open Red Cross shelters, a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm and a one-touch "I'm Safe" button that lets someone use social media outlets to let family and friends know they are okay.
People have been using the app to find shelters, to set up locations for the app to monitor, to make a disaster plan, and learn what steps they can take to stay safe. The app is available in Spanish just by changing the smart phone setting to Spanish before downloading.
The First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in a person's hand. Both can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.